In my class, creativity occurs in our figurative language analysis. When we discuss poems, our students are asked to interpret and think critically about the poem. When they do this, students bring their individual background knowledge and experiences to their interpretations. This fosters creativity because the students are asked to think above or outside of concrete facts. There is never just one answer; in our class, students are told that as long as they can argue effectively their stance, they are correct. We recently gave a summative assessment about transcendentalism and romanticism in which we gave students the choice between turning in a written, visual, or mathematical project. We gave them the rubric we will be using and the requirements for each project. We have 2 or 3 people working on a mathematical approach to comparing and contrasting the two literary movements in relation to the literature we read in class.
In my class, critical thinking is something we do every day. Our students have to think critically about literature, an author’s philosophical belief or approach, and the impact a piece of literature has on society. We ask that students base their assumptions and inferences and ideas in the information we’ve discussed in class and in the texts themselves. Problem solving occurs less frequently in my English classes. However, a lot of my students love to predict the outcomes and character actions, so we do ask students to predict when we can. By predicting base off the knowledge they’ve gleaned from the text and from the context of the story, students are utilizing their problem solving skills.
Our students communicate and discuss with one another every day. We constantly turn into table groups of 4 and share our thoughts. We have whole-class discussions and as a teacher, I simply facilitate the conversations. My students love discussing with one another.
In my class, I teach my students to think critically about the information they encounter in life (information literacy). We do a joint-research project with History, in which students have to find 10 sources and use 5 of them. They have to include a brief paragraph about why the sources they didn’t use were not viable for the paper. Through thinking critically about the topic, the context, and the knowledge they’ve learned in class, my students practice information literacy frequently.
The first unit we teach is on argument. Argument, we informed the students, is everywhere: it’s in advertisements, comics, literature, TV shows, news journalism. Argument is the idea of having a stance and using logos, pathos, ethos, and rhetorical devices to best persuade others. In doing so, we inform students that they need to be able to think critically about the information given to them and how the mode of the information (media, text, etc.) drives the purpose of the people behind the information. We teach our students to think critically about the media presented to them both inside and outside the classroom.
Technology is used every day in my classroom. We do a lot of work with the document camera and listen to audio books and visual clips when we can. We do trips to the computer lab and career center to do workshops on our research paper and the project we have due soon about Transcendentalism and American romanticism. Our students love getting out of the classroom and working on computers. We will be setting up a blog soon for the students to use in an online forum sort of setting, so they can communicate with all the 11 grade College Prep classes that my CT and I teach together.
Our students have a hard time with homework. We give them reasons and purpose behind each assignment we have them do and explain that it’s not busy work. In class, we work independently and then after a few minutes we tell the students that it’s OK to talk with a neighbor if they would like to. We have been working with having the students read directions more (they seem to refuse to read directions) and so we’re going to be doing a lesson where we give them a list of 3 things they need to do and then we said “you have 15 minutes to do them all. Go.” We recently did that with a gallery walk, where we had stations around the room color coded. We told the students that they had to go to one of each color and answer the questions provided. We told them they had 15 minutes to do them all and that we’d reconvene then. It worked really well, and we adjusted the time as needed for each class. During our reflection time at the end, the students told me that they really liked being able to move around the room at their leisure and that they liked having choice in the stations. I really want to do more activities like that in the future.
My students are always interacting with one another. We’ve got assigned seats of homogeneous table groups of 4. Each unit, we make a new seating chart. Students often turn into their table groups and discuss what they need to. We also do parallel teaching when we can. For example, we’re reading a play, Inherit the Wind, and there are at most 20 speaking characters in an act. We split our class into two groups of 20 and alternate taking out groups outside and we read the act out loud. My group really enjoyed going outside and reading out loud. Students in my class rarely just sit at their desks, passively acquiring information. We even offer clipboards to students that want to get out of their seat and stand in class.